Home > neuroscience > Why Do Pigeons Walk With Bobbing Heads?

Why Do Pigeons Walk With Bobbing Heads?

Have you noticed how pigeons (and other birds) bob their heads while walking? Ever wondered why?

No, there’s no connection between their heads and their legs forcing them to move their head as they walk. It doesn’t have to do with balance either, as it was shown in Frost’s 1978 study. In this experiment pigeons were trained to walk on a treadmill (I can’t imagine how they did that..). The researchers showed that head-bobbing is abolished when pigeons walk on a treadmill. This “suggests (that) it is primarily a visual response rather than an equilibratory response”.

Here are some links, if you’re interested in learning more about head-bobbing in pigeons (and other birds):
the original study by Frost (pdf)
Head-bobbing of walking birds (a review)
Vision during head bobbing (pdf – recent study by Ortega et al)

…and finally: head-bobbing of a walking hen. What happens when it’s being carried? Is it relevant to Frost’s study? What do you think?

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